Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now


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Fall Festival Weekend

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As I was tucking Arlene into bed one night last week, she asked: when is the next holiday? Like a fun one, not like Labor Day!? I was so glad she asked! It was a good reminder to pull a few things together for our upcoming fall festival. In our family it is an annual tradition the weekend before the fall equinox – a time to celebrate the change in seasons; from the enormity of  the outdoors and hot days to cooler, more inward days.  It all begins when our neighborhood squirrels leave out a basket of apples or pumpkins, along with a seasonal book.  Such thoughtful rodents! In turn, we make applesauce and a brunch feast!

This year I really wanted to add a night of stargazing to the weekend. I wanted to take note of some of the celestial changes too. I’m more familiar with the summer skies than winter, except that Stephen talks about Orion quite a lot in the cooler seasons. So we made plans to  head up to Peaceful Valley Campground for Saturday night. Peaceful Valley is 45 minutes from our home at about 8500 feet.  It is steep valley, a product of glacial erosion.   It is just beautiful. It looked uncertain Saturday as both the girls came down with horrible colds. Poor Ada was really struggling in the morning, so we decided to just play it by ear.  However, enthusiasm won, congestion, ZERO. We headed for the mountains…

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We took on a short hike before setting up camp and cooking dinner. The late afternoon light was brilliant but softer than the rays of noon. The cool air just what we needed. Both the girls and Stephen were in some stage of a nasty virus.

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After our hike we settled down to some campfire cooking and hanging out! Dinner? Cowgirl potatoes (potatoes, onions, peas, cheese and bacon) on an open fire.  Delicious! More so by my hunger and the outdoors. Blankets covered us as the air grew cooler and the stars slowly surfaced. We ate our s’mores and watched for new stars to emerge.

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The squirrels once again came through with a basket full of apples the next morning –which we put to immediate enjoyment! We continued our celebration of fall continued with a seasonal brunch: pumpkin waffles, grits, bacon and fried apples.  The rest of the apples with make their way into next week’s apple jacks!

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life of rich people

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I’m asked if I plan the baking activities along with books we read. Sometimes I do, like one of our favorite baking/ book duos, “sun bread” on rainy days inspired by the book Sun Bread by Elisa Kleven. More often than not though we read and are inspired by a book and we  just roll off the couch and make “stone soup” or baked goods from the story. Many of our days revolve around cooking and baking, so it all flows naturally that our favorite books would lead us to the kitchen.

Recently we read The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Bayloran absolute favorite of mine and if you don’t know it, read it! Like other books, after we read it we found our way into the pantry checking to see if we had the ingredients to make sugar snap cookies- the baked good that sits atop  “the table where rich people sit.” This book, like others by this marvelous author moves me very deeply. It tells the story of Mountain Girl who gathers her family for a meeting to discuss their lack of money, their poverty. Mountain Girl thinks she is the only one who has any sense in the family and goes on to suggest her parents get real jobs, work in offices and then maybe they won’t be so poor.  Her parents then outline the value of their life in monetary terms, say working outdoors, that’s got to be worth $20,000? How much more for hearing the coyotes howl? Sunrises and sunsets? Being together everyday? And so on.

Before the girls were born, Stephen and I worked together. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Driving in to school, sharing our lunch, checking in with one another throughout the day and then heading home. All together. After the girls’ birth, I found that  separation from him so difficult– we were apart all day and it felt so wrong.  Mondays are still so trying. Tuesdays and Wednesdays too. Yet, it is normal and typical and surrounds us. We were unique in working together back then, not the norm.

My decision to remain home, ultimately homeschooling and leaving a job I truly did love, a second income, outside recognition and all the defining elements that go along with a career has not always been easy. It is accompanied by some heavy baggage — financial being just one. Re-framing is necessary to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing! Sometimes it is hard to put to words since it is a calling beyond explanation. My inner compass has not wavered on this decision at all. The outer compass, influenced and shaped by the world I live in and my past, has challenged the decision. More money?  Security? Health insurance?! My own life? A bigger home?  My own upbringing, inundated with financial difficulties (to say the least) haunts me. Am I being responsible? Shouldn’t I just get A JOB?!! Ahhhh! Maybe Mountain Girl is right…

Stephen and I discuss our need to work toward finding that balance. Let’s not get pulled in to the financial burdens of a bigger home or a second car. Let’s work this one income out, comfortably, by making the right decisions for us- following this path! Let’s have the afternoons and the summers together. How can we continue to not only value, but reach for the non-monetary benefits of this scenario?

Reading this story,  my inner compass is strengthened– like a reassuring friend reminding me of what’s important. The value, the riches, the WEALTH we have in our lives may not stack up behind the $ sign, but are seemingly infinite and amorphous, impossible to pin down or capture because they tally up by being together everyday. Having time together and the freedom we have each of those days to bake cookies, picnic in the snow, make Japanese food together and serve it on little plates, ride the carousel (again and again), dance in the wind, hike up a canyon, enjoy the view after, write our name in the snow, brush a friend’s horse…

And if this doesn’t work out, I tell Stephen we’ll go panning for gold. We’re in Colorado after all.

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Making Meaning

Central to nourishing my children’s development, is modeling and sharing meaning in the everyday activities and rhythms as well as the big holiday celebrations. I learned early on to try not to rush the chores, the mundane, the ordinary routines I was so fortunate to experience with my babies, my toddlers, and now my young children. Taking time to get washed up, dressed, eating our meals– not rushing through the many moments we ignore so that we can get to the “real” moment–those are to be savored (too). An early, light-hearted eureka moment occurred when the girls were about 9 months old and I was trying to give them a “quick” birdbath after eating. The whole task was thrown off and set straight when I realized the goal of efficiency, control and as little water as possible were actually working against me/us! Instead I set them both on the bathroom floor with large basins of sudsy water and wash clothes. It took over an hour, the floor was soaking wet, they lead the way and we all enjoyed washing up.

Following a general rhythm to our week,  thinking of other people on baking day, experiencing value in taking care of our home, providing model-worthy activities for the girls–those are the some of the day to day ways we’ve tried to instill meaning in our lives. On the level of holidays, I’ve also tried to find ways to infuse more spirit and heart by finding our own way with the celebration, stringing it out a little more through preparations and celebrations. This is an area where Waldorf education really helps to inspire me.

Key to Waldorf education is celebrating life through holidays and festivals. I’m thrilled to say that celebrations and festivals increased in our home these years! Starting with seasonal shifts we celebrated the change through our nature table scenes, foods, songs, activities and stories. For the fall and spring we culminated the seasonal shift with a festival meal. Last fall our friendly neighborhood squirrels left a basket of apples and an apple corer to help with the apple pies and applesauce making! That same spring one of the bunny families of Durham (yup) left the girls carrots and summer nightgowns! The anticipation, the excitement and  joy that came from these festivals were encouraging, to say the least.

The memory, meaning and excitement we as adults can so easily conjure up about our childhood celebrations–whether birthdays or Christmas’ is proof of the value of celebrations.  They speak to our spiritual needs –making meaning out of life. If we can increase the joy and depth in our lives through celebrations–whether simple pauses to notice the changes of the seasons, a party to mark our lives a year older, candles lit to reflect on the memory of those passed on, and religious holidays, then why not devote more attention to recognizing them and making them our own–especially with children?

Celebrating life is really about being grateful for life and that is something I want to share with my girls more than anything.

Here are some photos of our celebrations since arriving out west: St. Michael’s, birthdays! St. Martin’s, All Soul’s Day, Advent, and recently St. Lucia’s…

~our week~
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~st. michael’s: dragon bread and stories ~IMG_0792 IMG_0808 IMG_0384 IMG_0809

~all soul’s day: photos of those passed on, food and music they enjoyed as well as many great stories ~

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~st. martin’s: stories, songs, baking and lantern bags to light us on our walk~IMG_1414 IMG_1416 IMG_1421 IMG_1423 IMG_1442 IMG_1459IMG_0362 IMG_1346 IMG_1334

~birthdays! birthday stories, partied, baked, played, and much needed birthday naps after early breakfast outing~IMG_1494 IMG_1488 IMG_1673 IMG_0816 IMG_0821 IMG_1563

~advent: homemade from cut greens in our neighborhood for our table wreath~image image image

~st. lucia: lots of stories, songs, crafts and baking this week! ada especially enjoyed the baking this week!~image image image image

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We continue this week with St. Lucia. Her name shares the root “luc” from the Latin to mean light. In addition to making up children’s stories about her life (which there are many to derive mine from), I’ve tried to emphasize the nature of hope and light in her life.

We also celebrated Saint Nicholas Day this year which has added some playfulness into the gift giving tradition. The girls left some nice treats for St. Nick and his donkey and he in turn left some sweets for them! I told stories about St. Nicholas’ life and suggested we do a “St. Nick deed.” We sent out some baked goodies as well as anonymously left a a flower arrangement for one of our new neighbors.

Hope to link some audio clips here soon. Hearing the girls sing these new songs is really special. Children just have the best voices!